Welcome to the latest edition of Investigative Roundup, highlighting some of the best investigative reporting on healthcare each week.
Anesthesiologist Delivered Deadly Epidural
An anesthesiologist at a Brooklyn hospital made several life-threatening mistakes in administering epidurals, and was involved in the death of a 26-year-old woman in 2020, according to the New York Times.
Dmitry Shelchkov, MD, inserted the epidural improperly into Sha-Asia Semple while she was in labor at Woodhull Medical Center, and administered a full dose of anesthesia without waiting to see how she would respond, the Times reported.
Semple said she couldn’t breathe, and when another doctor arrived to help, they reportedly screamed they couldn’t “believe this is happening again.” The baby survived.
Semple’s death sparked protest outside the hospital and brought attention to the disparity in the quality of healthcare experiences for minority patients.
The CMS hospital inspection report that revealed the details of Semple’s death also indicated that Shelchkov was partly responsible for “adverse outcomes related to the administration of anesthesia” at Woodhull for six other pregnant patients in the preceding 2 years.
Shelchkov was stripped of his medical license in 2021, according to the article.
Hotze’s Conspiracy Theory
Steven Hotze, MD, who funded a private voter fraud investigation in 2020, has continued to claim that an A/C repairman named David Lopez was the “main perpetrator” of the supposed fraud scheme, according to the Houston Chronicle.
A review of documents from a civil case against Hotze revealed that Lopez, who is a Mexican immigrant, fears for his life after being assaulted by Mark Aguirre, the fraud investigator hired by Hotze. Aguirre allegedly crashed an SUV into Lopez’s box truck, then pointed a gun at him because he believed Lopez was hiding fraudulent ballots related to Hotze’s fraud claims.
The documents also revealed comments from Lopez about his fears after the assault.
“I am afraid because the people who did this to me are very powerful. I have no power,” he said. ” I do not know why they attacked me.”
“These people did not find what they are looking for so I am afraid they will attack me again,” Lopez said.
The documents also revealed that Hotze believed that Lopez was being paid by Harris County Democratic officials, saying, “We’ve got the goods.” He also said, “It’s so complicated I can’t — I can’t comment on it right now, but we do.”
The article also detailed the timeline of the assault and the supposed origins of Hotze’s conspiracy theory behind the private investigation that targeted Lopez.
Hotze is facing felony charges related to the assault of Lopez and he is being sued by Lopez in a separate lawsuit.
Doc Group Slams Wegovy Story
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has filed a complaint against CBS’s 60 Minutes for its coverage of the weight-loss drug semaglutide (Wegovy), which it claimed violated the FDA’s “fair balance” requirements for drug ads, according to a press release from the organization.
The committee released a statement saying that CBS aired the segment on January 1 after receiving advertising payments from Novo Nordisk, the manufacture of Wegovy. One of the primary complaints was that the news segment only featured experts who had been paid by Novo Nordisk.
The committee also said the segment failed to mention alternative options for weight loss.
“The 60 Minutes program looked like a news story, but it was effectively a drug ad. And there are FDA regulations on prescription drug advertising related risks and contraindications,” Neal Barnard, MD, president of PCRM, said in the press release. “Wegovy can cause digestive side effects and increased heart rate. Gallstones, pancreatitis, and serious drops in blood sugar have occurred, especially when Wegovy is combined with other diabetes drugs. There is also a risk for women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant.”
The committee is calling for CBS to remove the segment and articles from its website and run a “corrective ad” that explains the side effects and risks associated with semaglutide.